Citizen joins firefighters in smoke-filled building | Letters
July 25, 2012 · Updated 3:59 PM
Serious business requires practice. That’s why I’m voting yes.
Come with me as I put on firefighter’s bunker gear, SCBA (self-contained breathing apparatus) and all other necessary equipment that weighs over 70 pounds — as I begin my journey into the specially constructed two-story simulated disaster building.
As I climb the stairs to enter the building, I’m beginning to feel the heaviness of my gear. Here we go.
An uncomfortable, claustrophobic feeling quickly washes over me as I am enveloped in a dense, gray smoke. Immediately I want to escape, but I can’t even see my hand in front of my face, let alone the way out. Then a radio crackles through the dark and I hear a voice command, “Mayday, Mayday, Mayday … Command this is Engine 62. There has been a building collapse, we have lost our water pressure and we are trying to find our way out.”
The training captain hands me a thermal imaging camera, a high tech tool that can “see” through smoke, which reassures me a bit. On the screen, a silhouetted group of firefighters comes into focus as they struggle to get free of wires hanging from a collapsed ceiling.
Soon, this same group of firefighters climbs over an impossibly high wall, aided by the coaching of the training lieutenant, whose only means of communication is a voice through the dense smoke.
The thermal imaging camera clearly shows me the location of the training lieutenant, who becomes my invisible ally as I attempt to navigate the unfamiliar building through the thick smoke. The firefighters continue on, navigating a collapse that leaves a passage so small only a small child could fit through, over shaky rafters and through yet more wires, as their breathing becomes faster and more labored.
Soon, the radio breaks the silence again as they report “Command, E62, we are still working our way out, our team air is 1,600 pounds.” In only a few minutes, they have exhausted more than half of their air, navigating multiple obstacles blocking their escape from this “firefighter’s worst nightmare.”
I continue to watch as they navigate their way through the end of the course. Then they are challenged with sharing air between the crew members. I can only imagine what must be going through their minds as they take a long deep breath, disconnect their air supply line and attempt to reconnect to their buddy, whom they can barely see.
Watching these firefighters train, I realize this is serious business. This is real. There’s no room for any mistakes.
South King firefighters train so that they are prepared to come to the aid of our community, to rescue us from any potential deadly disaster. But on this day, they are preparing for the type of emergency that claims the lives of more than 100 firefighters from across the country each year.
Finally it’s over. I’m through the drill, and I’m relieved and grateful. Words cannot do justice to this experience. These brave firefighters practice over and over every situation and possible catastrophe. Knowing this gives me confidence and reassures me that we as citizens receive the fastest and most thorough action immediately. After a quick critique from the training officers, a bottle of Gatorade and fresh bottle of air, they are ready to do it again.
Few people get to experience let alone have the opportunity to observe the intense and dramatic lifesaving drills that our firefighters practice. And practice they do, because when a life or death situation occurs that requires immediate action, we want them doing what they’ve been trained to do.
I sure hope you vote yes, showing your support and confidence in your fire department. But, a well trained and equipped fire department costs money.
That’s why I’m voting for Proposition One so South King Fire and Rescue can continue to make every effort to maximize resources and create efficiencies, all while providing the highest level of emergency service to the citizens during their times of crisis.
David Myers, Federal Way